West Valley City Adoption Lawyer
Deciding to adopt a child into your family is a life-changing occasion and a cause for celebration, but it can also be an extremely complicated legal process. There are many strict and complex laws and regulations surrounding Utah’s foreign and domestic adoption proceedings, and adoptive parents may not always be fully aware of their legal rights and obligations as the timeline unfolds.
West Valley City adoption attorney Darwin Overson can help advocate on your behalf and guide you through understanding your rights and responsibilities, so that your new family gets off to a strong legal start. To set up a completely free and confidential case evaluation, call the offices of Overson Law, PLLC today – (801) 758-2287.
Who is Allowed to Adopt Children in Utah? Requirements for Adoptive Parents
Adoption is subject to various restrictions on prospective parents. Under Utah’s laws, you must be able to meet the following criteria in order to legally adopt a child:
- You must be a legal adult (i.e. at least 18 years of age).
- You must either be married and have consent from your spouse, or be single and not currently living with anyone else.
- Your prospective adoptee must be a minimum of 10 years younger than you.
Until the recent past, same sex couples were barred from adopting by the state’s former laws. However, due to recent updates to the legislature, same sex couple adoptions are now legal in accordance with the Utah Code. Regardless of sexual orientation, you must meet the three basic requirements noted above.
Of course, these very broad and basic criteria are not the only requirements for bringing a child into your family. Ultimately, the family court system wants to best ensure that adopted children will be well cared for and will enjoy a good quality of life, which means that prospective parents are subject to additional requirements. For example, the Utah Division of Child and Family Services strictly enforces the following criteria:
- You must be able to complete a training program for adoptive parents. This program must be specifically approved by the Division.
- You must be able to pass a home inspection. The inspection will be performed by a licensed child placement agency.
- You must obtain a foster care license or equivalent permission from the Department of Human Services’ Office of Licensing.
- There must not be any conflict of interest involved in the adoption.
Furthermore, you personally will be subject to screenings to help protect the child’s safety. If a child is in the state’s custody, the Division of Child and Family Services will:
- Screen you for a criminal record, as well as any history of child abuse.
- Perform a behavioral assessment, both for you and any biological children in your home.
- Verify your health and financial status.
- Assess your general parenting skills.
Getting Legal Consent for Adoption
Before you can adopt a child into your family, you will need to make sure you have full and valid legal consent from the appropriate parties. Under Utah’s laws, you may need to obtain consent from any of the following parties depending on your specific circumstances:
- If the child was born outside of marriage, you need consent from the biological mother.
- If the child was born or conceived within a marriage, you need consent from the both parents. If one parent has passed away, you still need to get consent from the surviving parent.
Where applicable, adoptive parents may also need consent from:
- A biological father who was adjudicated to be the biological father before the biological mother gave consent to relinquish the child.
- A biological father who formally filed a voluntary declaration of paternity before the biological mother gave consent to relinquish the child.
- An unmarried biological father who formally initiates paternity proceedings, and who demonstrates a connection to the child (e.g. providing care, living with the child for at least six months of the child’s first year of life).
If there are no surviving or present biological parents, you must still obtain consent from the agency or organization which cares for the child.
Conversely, there are also some situations where adoptive parents do not need to obtain consent. For example, you do not need consent if:
- A biological parent’s parental rights have been terminated. Parental rights may be terminated for reasons such as abuse, violent behavior, or parental incompetence caused by illness or intellectual disability.
- An unmarried biological father has not formally initiated paternity proceedings.
To start discussing your options in a free and private case evaluation, call West Valley City adoption lawyer Darwin Overson at (801) 758-2287 today.